SOFIA, Bulgaria, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Bulgaria has become the latest in a series of European countries that plans to cancel the delivery of already ordered military equipment.
The country plans to cancel orders for three military helicopters and two transport planes in a bid to ease pressure on the public budget, Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov said Wednesday, the Sofia News Agency reports.
Sofia is in talks with Eurocopter over refusing to take the final three of six Panther AS323 helicopters that were ordered in a package with 12 Cougar AS352 helicopters. The contract, signed by former Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov in January 2005, is worth more than $470 million. One Cougar chopper and the three Panther helicopters are still waiting to be delivered.
Angelov warned that the company might not accept the cutback, adding that "tough negotiations" were ahead. If the contracts aren't renegotiated, then Bulgaria might lose its equipment: The producer owns the choppers until all money is paid -- conditions the current government says are unfair.
Bulgaria also plans to reduce by one plane the $125 million order for five C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, built by Italy's Alenia Aeronautica.
"We are conducting hard talks with the Italians in order to be able to give up the fifth air plane," Angelov was quoted as saying by Sofia News Agency.
The C-27J Spartan, an updated version of the C-27A Spartan used by the U.S. military, is a medium-sized transport aircraft with the engines and systems of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. They can carry up to 60 soldiers at a maximum takeoff weight of 67,241 pounds and a maximum speed of 374 mph.
Several Central and Eastern European armed forces have ordered the C27J to replace their Soviet-era transports. The United States has ordered 38 planes.
Bulgaria is one of several European nations that plan to cut back on ordered equipment.
Italy last month announced that it would cut its planned purchase of Eurofighter jets by 25 planes due to budget pressures. Italy will try to save $2.6 billion by buying 96, and not 121, models of the European multi-role aircraft, Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said at Farnborough Air Show near London.
Italy aims to cut its defense budget by 10 percent in 2011. The measure is part of a $30 billion emergency debt reduction package launched by the Italian government in May.
Other European nations are planning to cut costs.
In Britain, the government is divided on military spending but it's almost certain that a major strategic defense review due to be unveiled this year will propose budget cuts and the review of individual military purchases.
Germany's defense budget, $38.5 billion for 2010, will likely be cut by around $1.3 billion per year.
France is evaluating additional austerity measures after having decided to cut more than 50,000 military and civilian personnel over the next three years.